An excerpt from Patrick Thomas’s story “Fear to Tread” appearing in the anthology Horns and Halos, edited by John L. French and Danielle Ackley-McPhail, funding now on Kickstarter.

That destiny was pulling a half-eaten tuna sandwich out of a dumpster. He shared it with a kitten, despite the look of hunger that stared out from his own blazing eyes. Digits, daring to peek out from gloves with no fingers, patted a matted gray beard, not quite so much filthy as lived in. He smiled as the young feline ate its fill. The half-gloved hands reached down to scratch behind the kitten’s ears and were rewarded with a contented purr. The man looked up to the dusky sky and again smiled. The kitten climbed up into his lap and the pair drifted off to the land of dreams, leaving their bodies behind in the land of alleys and trash cans. After a literal cat nap, the pair parted company, the kitten going back to the alleys and the man to the streets.

A song without words graced his lips. A dance without steps embellished his walk. A thought without reason spanned his mind.

“The fallen are in the sky,” he whispered, but he would not avert his eyes from the heavens.

A light rain dripped from the sky and politely ignored him. The people he passed on the street did the same.

A young woman, forgetting the law of the jungle and the rules of the city, made eye contact. She found herself returning a smile and humming a song without words for the rest of the day, never quite knowing the reason why.

As he traveled the concrete canyons, a bar called to him. It took him a moment to hear the words carried on the winds, but eventually, the whisper reached his ears. Looking up, he stared at the bar door, and he knew what lay inside.

His mission. The enemy. And something else.

First, he chuckled, then winked at the sky. The enemy didn’t frighten him. Perhaps this would be the one, the deed that earned him his reward. Not that reward was the reason for the deed, but it would be nice to finally be recognized. And to have them on his shoulders.

Inside the bar, Paul nursed a watered-down beer and silently cursed himself because he didn’t even have the guts to let go and get drunk, despite his physical pain.

The bartender felt the same way. Paul could tell by the looks he kept giving him after he only tipped a quarter.

Those looks were nothing compared to the stare he gave the guy with the fingerless gloves who walked in the door. As far as Paul was concerned, he was just some goofy, sweet, old guy. The bartender disagreed and said so.

“We don’t want your kind in here,” the bartender growled through gritted teeth.

The old guy answered, smiling all the while. “I don’t want your kind anywhere, but we can’t always have what we want, can we?”

Patrick Thomas

Patrick Thomas has had stories published in over three dozen magazines and more than fifty anthologies. He’s written 30+ books including the fantasy humor series Murphy’s Lore, urban fantasy spin-offs Fairy With A Gun, Fairy Rides The Lightning, Dead To Rites, Rites of Passage, Lore & Dysorder and two more in the Startenders series. He co-writes the Mystic Investigators paranormal mystery series and The Assassins’ Ball, a traditional mystery, co-authored with John L. French. His darkly humorous advice column Dear Cthulhu includes the collections Cthulhu Knows BestHave A Dark Day, Good Advice For Bad People, and Cthulhu Knows Best. His latest collection is the Steampunk-themed As The Gears Turn. A number of his books were part of the props department of the CSI television show and one was even thrown at a suspect. Fairy With A Gun was optioned by Laurence Fishburne’s Cinema Gypsy Productions. Act of Contrition, a story featuring his Soul For Hire hitman is in development as a short film by Top Men Productions. Drop by to learn more.

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